It’s so easy to get discouraged and overwhelmed by all that has been happening in education lately, especially to the teaching profession. Some days it feels like all I’m doing as a teacher educator is hearing, reading, or bearing witness to the pain and joylessness that teachers are experiencing in the current climate of high stakes accountability, public disdain for teachers and teaching, and the lack of respect for the teaching profession. But as soon as I think I just can’t live in that perpetual space of negativity, something remarkable happens. I hear about a teacher who is excited about the work she is doing, speaks about what the endearing students in the classroom are learning, and how grateful she is for being able to do this work for a living. I believe in the power of this optimism to both engage and inspire all of us to continue to seek out and fight “the good fights” – or those worth fighting – in the interest of both reinvigorating the profession, and most importantly, improving the quality of learning experiences for all of our children. This optimism can be found through exploring and recognizing our common purpose and commitments as educators in order to chart new pathways to strive towards what matters most… our children.
I’ve been reading a book that is helping me to better articulate my professional learning and the way I want to position myself to support others in their learning and development. It’s called Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future (2004) by Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski, and Flowers. What I love most about this book is that it is helping me to recognize that I am not alone in my pursuit of seeking meaningful learning in the service and advocacy of others. I value those in my immediate and broader community who are curious about what “deeper meaning and learning” truly entails, especially as it connects to and inspires professional learning. In this way, this book is illuminating the importance of “belonging” as a grounding force from which to lead. Further, when we learn how to see ourselves and others using an appreciative, strength-based and inquiry approach to meaning-making, we open ourselves up to the power that self-knowledge, empathy and optimism can bring. One of the authors of Presence writes, “The only change that will make a difference is the transformation of the human heart. For me, it’s almost like learning to see with the heart.”
This quote speaks to that part of me that sometimes wants to shut down my heart in order to make difficult decisions about whether or not a teacher candidate “has what it takes” to become a teacher or to meet with yet another principal in a local school that has had nine principals in the past ten years. The human heart is the space from which we fight against those practices and policies that we know are not in the best interest of students’ learning. It is also the space from which we feel and celebrate with the teacher who didn’t give up on a student because he knew with a different approach to supporting his learning that the student would eventually understand. It’s also with the human heart that we help our children know that they matter enough for us to continue to care what their learning experiences are like in schools and to help our fellow educators to keep their hearts open even when they struggle with the current challenges and demands of the work. If you too are looking for some larger purpose to your work, I highly recommend checking out this book!
Submitted by Dr. Wendy Burke
Director of Student Teaching
Eastern Michigan University
Equity and excellence in teaching and learning.
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